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Institute of Polish Language at the Polish Academy of Sciences, Kraków

Żmigrodzki, P. (2014): Polish Academy of Sciences Great Dictionary of Polish [Wielki słownik
języka polskiego PAN]. Slovenščina 2.0, 2 (2): 37–52.
URL: http://www.trojina.org/slovenscina2.0/arhiv/2014/2/Slo2.0_2014_2_04.pdf.

    The paper describes a lexicographical project involving the development of the
    newest general dictionary of the Polish language: the Polish Academy of Sciences
    Great Dictionary of Polish [Wielki słownik języka polskiego PAN]. The project is
    coordinated by the Institute of Polish Language at the Polish Academy of
    Sciences and carried out in collaboration with linguists and lexicographers from
    several other Polish academic centres. The paper offers a brief description of the
    genesis of the project and the scope of information included in the dictionary, the
    organisation of work, the life of the dictionary on the Web as well as the plans for
    the future.

Keywords: Polish language, electronic lexicography, general dictionary of Polish, online


The Polish Academy of Sciences Great Dictionary of Polish [Wielki słownik
języka polskiego PAN] has been in the process of being created for 10 years.
Researchers and lexicographers employed at the Polish Academy of Sciences,
with the help of people from other seats of learning, are working hard to finish

1This is a scientific work financed in the framework of a Polish Ministry of Science and Higher
Education programme called “National Programme of Development of Humanities” in the
years 2013–2018 [Praca naukowa finansowana w ramach programu Ministra Nauki i
Szkolnictwa Wyższego pod nazwą Narodowy Program Rozwoju Humanistyki” w latach 2013–
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it. It is a general dictionary of the Polish language, which is being published and
shared exclusively online under the address http://wsjp.pl/. The present paper
will describe: the history of the project, basic features of the dictionary, general
rules of its creation, and the division of labour, workflow, as well as our plans
for the future.


2.1 The Beginning

The project started in the summer of 2005, when the Committee on Linguistics
of the Polish Academy of Sciences announced a call for tenders for the project
of a new great dictionary of the contemporary Polish language. The aim was to
replace the already outdated dictionary by Witold Doroszewski (Doroszewski,
ed. 1958–1969) as the main lexicographical source. Among others, a team
representing the Polish Academy of Sciences Institute of Polish Language,
consisting of Piotr Żmigrodzki, Renata Przybylska and Bogusław Dunaj, took
part in this call for tenders. They introduced an initial version of the idea for a
new dictionary at the meeting of the Committee on Linguistics in October 2005.
In January 2006, a lexicographical workshop was held at the Institute, in which
more sophisticated preparatory work was conducted. In December 2006,
during the meeting of the Committee on Linguistics of the Polish Academy of
Sciences, an extended version of the project was presented and accepted by the
Committee. Preparatory work continued throughout 2007. It was financed by
the so-called statutory funds of the Institute until the grant from the Ministry
of Science and Higher Education was finally acquired. The actual
lexicographical work on the dictionary started in January 2008.

2.2 Stages of the dictionary creation

The first proper stage of the dictionary creation took place between January
2008 and December 2012. Its aim was a preparation of 15,000 entries
describing the most frequently used words of the Polish language (the list was

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compiled on the basis of Polish language corpora from that period, especially
the corpus of Publishing House PWN and the Corpus of PAS Institute of
Computer Science). In order to reach that goal, other tasks had to be
undertaken, most importantly designing the dictionary microstructure, its
transposition on the database, designing the database itself and the whole
digital system of the dictionary; this was done by the IT specialists who were
cooperating with the team. (A more detailed description of these tasks can be
found in Żmigrodzki 2011.) Between January and August 2013 the project was
again financed only by the statutory funds of the Polish Academy of Sciences
and was limited to the current expenditure of keeping the dictionary online and
the necessary corrections of the existing entries. The acquisition of an honorary
auspice of the Senate of the Republic of Poland was a very important event,
which raised the status of the project and became a significant argument that
could have an impact on its future funding. The second stage of lexicographical
work began in September 2013, and is financed by the Ministry of Science and
Higher Education with the program called “The National Programme of
Development of Humanities” (Narodowy Program Rozwoju Humanistyki). The
current stage is planned for the period up to 2018 and has the following

1. Compilation of 35,000 entries, among these:

      lexemes that were already included in the dictionary (according to the
       rule of compilation) in meaning relations with the words which were
       compiled in 2007–2012 (these are mainly: synonyms, antonyms,
       superordinates, near-synonyms, and near-antonyms);
      formative derivatives from the words already described, especially verbs;
      the most recent vocabulary items, which have not yet been recorded in
       any general Polish language dictionary.

2. Enrichment of entries compiled previously, especially:

      extension of etymological information to all entries;

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       as far as chronology is concerned, instead of listing the older dictionaries
        in which the word was described, the earliest date of the first usage of the
        word may be presented, on the basis of information in catalogues,
        documents from digital libraries, documents from historical dictionaries,
        etymological dictionaries, etc.;
       as far as adding new meanings is concerned, new meanings that have
        appeared since the creation of the first entries will be added.

The current stage is obviously not the last one. After its completion, the
dictionary will reach 50,000 main headwords (not counting entries describing
idioms and proverbs). Ultimately, the plan is to describe “nearly all the lexical
units in the Polish language”. It is therefore safe to say that the work will
continue past 2018. The nature of this work, however, cannot be known as of


In some respects, the character of the Great Dictionary of Polish follows the
Polish tradition, which is quite different than the western-European ones. At
the same time, many of the ideas and solutions used in it can be perceived as
innovative, at least when compared to other Polish dictionaries. The main
aspects that should be highlighted are:

       in principle synchronic: although the year 1945 was accepted as the
        beginning of the time span covered, due to the nature of the sources (to
        which we return later on), the overwhelming majority of the material will
        belong to the last decades of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st
       in principle descriptive: the authors are not going to exclude from
        description any lexicographical facts deemed incorrect 2 or – for whatever

2This tendency dominated Polish lexicography of the 20th century, and because of that
some contemporary readers may expect this.
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       reasons – unworthy of being noted in a dictionary, as long as these facts
       are well attested in the sources. The authors will only point out the
       normative unacceptability of a given fact, drawing on the Normative
       Dictionary of Polish [Słownik poprawnej polszczyzny] (for a more
       detailed overview, cf. Żmigrodzki 2008), and mark the stylistic
       qualification of non-standard units.
      an academic dictionary in which the authors aim to employ wherever
       possible the achievements of Polish 20th-century linguistics, especially in
       the field of semantic, inflectional and syntactic description of lexical
       units, at the same time keeping in mind that the description must be
       accessible to a very diverse group of Polish language users.

The format of description that is prevalent in the Great Dictionary of Polish can
be defined as structuralist. It develops the theoretical ideas contained in the
academic “Grammar of the Contemporary Polish Language” (Grzegorczykowa
et al., ed. 1984) and the works of Polish scientists such as Maciej Grochowski
and Andrzej Bogusławski (semantics), and Mirosław Bańko and Zygmunt
Saloni (inflection and syntax). Some of the data such as the information on
pronunciation, etymology, and chronology is introduced on the basis of
lexicographical research of other Polish dictionaries. However, the way of
presenting the lexicographical data is simplified, adjusted to the perceived
abilities of a wider audience, not only linguists or philologists. This is because
the dictionary is aimed to reach as many users as possible.


The main source of linguistic data for the dictionary is the National Corpus of
Polish [Narodowy Korpus Języka Polskiego, NKJP], a collective undertaking of
several academic units (including PAN IPL), carried out as a development
project parallel to WSJP and available for free on the Internet ( http://nkjp.pl).
The second most important source inventory is an auxiliary corpus created at
the PAN IPL specifically to serve the needs of the emerging dictionary; it

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comprises texts which for various reasons were not (and are not going to be)
included in the NKJP. Polish Internet sites constitute the third source. Finally,
the authors of particular entries may also rely on citations they have found
themselves. Although we are quite aware that this set of sources is not perfect
and might be criticized especially by philologists and lexicographers
representing more traditional approaches, we believe that a better corpus of
sources for WSJP would not be feasible within the foreseeable time. The
question of how best to export corpus data into the dictionary database is yet to
be resolved. Until now, the editors were able to use the tools available in the
corpus search engines, but they can only transfer the data with the help of the
Windows Clipboard.

In the process of creating specific entries, the editors also use other
lexicographical sources. One resource worth mentioning here is “The
Grammatical Dictionary of Polish Language” [Słownik gramatyczny języka
polskiego] (cf. Saloni et al. 2007). Its creators have approved sharing the
inflectional paradigms pertaining to the entries of the Great Dictionary of
Polish and the creation of a tool to import them directly to our dictionary’s
entries. Other dictionaries are sometimes also used, but to a lesser degree. For
example when it comes to the description of syntax, “the Syntactic-Generative
Dictionary of Polish Verbs” [Słownik syntaktyczno-generatywny czasowników
polskich] (Polański, ed. 1980-1992). For the insertion of information about
etymology and chronology, as mentioned before, etymological and historical
dictionaries will be consulted.

5 THE METHOD OF PRESENTATION                        AND    THE     SCO PE    OF

The microstructure of the dictionary covers all elements which can be found in
a typical general dictionary, in other words:

      headword form (with variants);
      information about the pronunciation (so far, only for the words with

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         unpredictable pronunciation, especially recent borrowings);
        chronology;
        etymology;
        description of meaning (in other words definition and, in polysemous
         entries, an additional guideword3);
        thematic classification;
        superordinates, synonyms and antonyms of the entry word in the specific
        inflection (especially the full paradigm of the word’s inflection, its
         affiliation to a part of speech);
        syntactic requirements (especially for verbs);
        collocations (based on the NKJP);
        full sentence quotations;
        abbreviations (if any);
        normative information (pertaining to some incorrect uses of the word);
        notes on usage (any other information pertaining to the usage of the word
         in texts).

This is the set of information present in the description of the two most
numerous types of language unit in the Great Dictionary of Polish, namely
single lexemes and idiomatic expressions. The most frequently used
abbreviations, acronyms and proper names are also included in the dictionary.
Their information content is a little different than the aforementioned set. 4 The
description of functional words (in Polish tradition this term is used to describe
prepositions, conjunctions etc.) is more distinct. To fully describe this topic a
separate article would be needed.

3A guideword is a type of indicator used in polysemous words which points to the meaning
that the reader wants to find. The idea of a guideword was taken from English pedagogical
dictionaries (e.g. LDOCE).
4   More information on the contents of these entries can be found in Żmigrodzki 2011.
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When it comes to the digital structure of the dictionary, it has a form of a
MySQL database. The integral part of it are also two modules: editing panel (see
Figure 1), in the form of an online form, which the lexicographers fill in, and the
so-called presentation panel (see Figures 2 and 3), which displays the contents
of the entry on the end-user’s computer. Since the entry displayed to the
end-user is generated every time directly from the database, this enables all
changes made by the editors to be immediately available to users. From the
point of view of the end-user, there are two possible modes of viewing the entry

      the so-called bookmark view, in which the contents are structured and
       sorted, the user can switch between different tabs and access the specific
       segments of the entry article;
      the consolidated view, in which all the elements of the entry article are
       extended and set in a linear order (as in a traditional, paper dictionary).
       After choosing this view, it is also possible to print the entry article.

Figure 1: Editing Panel of the dictionary, general view of the entry sen ‘sleep; dream’.

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Figure 2: Presentation panel of the dictionary, entry sen, bookmark view (showing
meaning 1).

Figure 3: Presentation panel of the dictionary, entry sen, consolidated view.

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The dictionary offers different ways of accessing entries, such as:

      an alphabetical list of entries, alphabetical (a fronte) and reverse
       dictionary (a tergo) orders are available;
      simple search: the user enters one or more words into the search bar and
       the program lists all the entries containing them;
      advanced search: various criteria can be used, such as any combination
       of signs, any inflectional form, a type of entry, a part of speech, thematic
       classification, etymology, labels (stylistic, typical user-group (e.g.
       criminal, teenage) and chronological features (e.g. archaic)).

There are also links to other entries if needed – for example to superordinates,
synonyms, antonyms, aspectual oppositions – and it is possible to instantly
access the related entry by clicking the displayed word. In the future, after the
compilation of more entries and the implementation of complete inflectional
data, there are plans to make it possible to reach entries by clicking on any of
the words contained anywhere on the entry page.

Apart from the information included in the entries, on the dictionary page you
can also access materials that were traditionally considered a part of the
so-called front matter, namely: introduction, outline of the history of the
project, a comprehensive description of the rules by which the dictionary has
been created, information about the authors (with photos and biographical
notes), and the list of articles concerning the project (with active links to the
online version, if available).


The number of people involved in the process of creating the dictionary has
changed in relation to the stage of the work and the financial conditions. In
2005, only 3 people worked on the original concept without salary. In 2006,
when the dictionary workshop was set up, 10 people were working on the
dictionary, but only two of them full-time, the others being involved in other

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projects as well. Between the years 2007-2012 and currently, the number of
people actively working on the dictionary is about 40. They are mostly
lexicographers and linguists: scholars, PhD students; some of them began
working on the project as MA students. Most of them (25 people) are affiliated
with PAN Institute of Polish Language, but there are also employees of
Jagiellonian University of Krakow, University of Warsaw, University of Silesia
(Katowice), and Nicolaus Copernicus University (Toruń). 20 people are
employed full-time, the rest have contracts for specific tasks. There is also a
group of IT specialists (employed in computer companies). The administrative
duties are performed by one person who is supported by the administrative
personnel of the institute. It is worth mentioning that the total number of
people involved in the process of creating the dictionary is over 70. The staff
was changing very frequently during the first stages of the project, but now it
has stabilized.


The tasks and assignments of the team are based on a certain hierarchy
amongst the members of the team. The main categories of editors (and their
competences) are as follows:

      Editors:

         – create their own entries and edit them;
         – can view the entries created by other editors but not modify them;
         – fill in all the entry fields except Etymology, Chronology, Thematic

      Supervising editor:

         – reviews the entries created by editors, and makes changes as

      Supercoordinator (leader of the project):

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         – proofreads the entries after they have been revised by editors;
         – controls the adequacy of information in fields fulfilled by
         – accepts the entries for presentation.

      Specialists:

         – fill in only the specified field (Etymology, Thematic Classification
               or Chronology); or
         – create and edit entries of a particular type (functional lexemes,

The creation of entries is carried out online, so it is possible to work on the
dictionary from any place in the world, using a simple web browser.

The sequence of actions required for entry creation is as follows:

      Editor: creates the initial version of the entry, filling in all the information
       except the one reserved for specialists.
      Supervising Editor: reviews the entry created by the editor, adds
       comments and then, after introducing adjustments and discussing any
       controversial elements with the editor, forwards the entry for further
      Specialists    dealing with     etymology, thematic       classification and
       chronology fill in the information connected to these areas.
      Supercoordinator (presently this job is only performed by the leader of
       the project and the chief editor of the dictionary, prof. Piotr Żmigrodzki)
       reviews the entry one more time, this time including the information
       added by the specialists, and suggests any necessary corrections and then
       checks if they were implemented properly. Then he green-lights the entry
       for publication, and gives it a proper status in the database.

In order for the entry to be accepted, automatic control of entry completeness
takes place (all fields have to be filled), the correctness of the spelling and the
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correctness of cross-references between the current entry and the others.
Immediately after an entry is given a status of “accepted for presentation”, the
entry becomes visible in the presentation panel, so that it is available for the
end-users. This kind of entry is then blocked from further editing.

It is worth noting that confirmation of entries is reversible, in other words it can
be undone – for example if there is a need to introduce adjustments or
additional information, such as adding a new meaning. The supercoordinator
is the only person who is allowed to unblock the entry and forward it for further


The first dictionary entries were published in 2009. At the time of writing (15 th
October 2014) 21,130 entries are available. As mentioned before, the number of
entries will be systematically increased. In 2018, it is going to reach 50,000
according to the plans. Using the dictionary is completely free and does not
require any additional software. In the last 12 months the dictionary has had
more than a million views and over 356,000 users from more than 140
countries. Of course most of the users connect from Poland, but there is also a
significant number of visitors from the USA, Great Britain, Germany, Russia,
Ukraine and other countries of the former USSR. The Polish diaspora is
occupying these territories in great numbers. The team of editors is trying to
promote the dictionary on their Facebook fanpage, and organizes many public
presentations for scholars, teachers, students and learners. The dictionary has
also been promoted in various radio programmes in which the head of the
project took part. Attracting the attention of mass media is quite difficult when
it comes to linguistic issues in general and even more so in the case of the Great
Dictionary of Polish. Maybe in the future when the dictionary expands it will be

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The current, second stage of work on the dictionary is not of course the final
one. The basic task of the team for the future is obviously adding more words
and expressions. Apart from that, the development of the dictionary should

      enrichment of the existing entries: especially adding new meanings if they
       emerge; there are also plans to include information about pronunciation,
       in the form of transcription and voice files, possibly also multimedia files
       complementing the definitions;
      improvements of the technological aspects, when it comes to editing (i.e.
       permitting automatic import of the data from other lexicographical
       sources), as well as from the end-user’s point of view (improvements of
       the presentation panel, making it compatible with the newest devices,
       maybe integration with other digital lexicographical sources).

There is also a need for other work pertaining to the contemporary Polish
language, indirectly connected with the Great Dictionary of Polish, such as
extending and bringing corpus sources and other materials on the Polish
language up to date.

Independently of the circumstances, the dictionary team is determined to
continue with their work, until the moment their original goal, which is
describing almost all lexical units of Polish, is reached.

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Doroszewski, W., ed. (1958-1969): Słownik języka polskiego PAN, vol. 1-11.
       Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnctwo Naukowe.

Grzegorczykowa, R., et al., ed. (1984): Gramatyka współczesnego języka
       polskiego. Składnia. Morfologia. Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnctwo

Saloni, Z., Gruszczynski, W., Woliński, R. and Wołosz, R. (2007):
       Grammatical Dictionary of Polish. Presentation by the Authors. Studies
       in Polish Linguistics, 4, 5-26.

Żmigrodzki, P. (2008): Nowy Wielki słownik języka polskiego a problemy
       poprawności językowej. In M. Święcicka (ed.): Siła słów i ludzi: 88-100;
       Bydgoszcz: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Kazimierza Wielkiego.

Żmigrodzki, P. (2011): Polish Academy of Sciences Great Dictionary of Polish:
       history, presence, prospects. Studies in Polish Linguistics, 6, 7-26.

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   Prispevek opisuje izdelavo najnovejšega splošnega slovarja poljskega jezika:
   Veliki slovar poljskega jezika Poljske akademije znanosti (Wielki słownik języka
   polskiego PAN). Vodilni partner projekta je Inštitut za poljski jezik, pri projektu
   pa sodelujejo tudi jezikoslovci in leksikografi s številnih poljskih akademskih
   ustanov. Prispevek na kratko predstavlja zgodovino projekta in glavne
   značilnosti slovarja. Opisana je tudi organizacija dela in naloge, ki jih opravljajo
   posamezni člani ekipe. Prispevek dalje prikazuje spletno zasnovo slovarja in dele
   spletnega vmesnika, npr. različne načine iskanj. V zaključku so navedeni načrti
   za prihodnost, ki vključujejo tako dodajanje novih iztočnic oziroma novih
   informacij obstoječim iztočnicam kot tudi izboljšavo leksikografskih postopkov z
   uporabo sodobnih jezikovnotehnoloških orodij.

Ključne besede: poljski jezik, elektronska leksikografija, splošni slovar poljskega jezika,
       spletni slovar

   To delo je ponujeno pod licenco Creative Commons: Priznanje avtorstva-
                        Deljenje pod enakimi pogoji 2.5 Slovenija.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5
                                      License Slovenia.


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